March 2, 2024

There were no unions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for decades, but now its curators, restorers, editors, and other staff want to start the second in a little over two years and team up with a local associated with the United Auto Workers.

Workers in similar professions are already part of collective bargaining in institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

On Friday, the Technical, Office and Professional Union, Local 2110, UAW petitioned the National Labor Relations Board asking for Guggenheim staff to approve a vote on the union, said Maida Rosenstein, local president .

She said she emailed the director of the Guggenheim, Richard Armstrong, letting him know that the petition had been submitted.

“We respectfully ask the museum not to postpone the election or campaign against free trade union elections for employees,” the email says in part. “Other institutions have remained neutral and have not interfered in the votes of the unions.”

In 2019, just before art dealers, maintenance mechanics and other Guggenheim employees voted to join Local 30 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, union officials said Mr Armstrong had sent an email to museum staff saying he was believed a union would create division. daily “in the institution.

On Friday, the Guggenheim issued a statement confirming that it had received the petition to form a new union at the museum and that it “recognizes the right of its employees to bargain collectively”.

“The museum will shortly announce the next steps,” the statement said.

Ms. Rosenstein said the proposed collective bargaining unit would represent around 160 professional and non-professional workers, including visitor service workers and some on-call day workers such as B. Museum educators.

Although there had been discussions among Guggenheim employees for years about the formation of a collective bargaining unit to represent the specialist staff, the employees stated that there had been another surge during the pandemic.

“Union formation is becoming more common, especially in our field,” said Julie K. Smitka, digital associate producer at the Guggenheim, who helped organize the organization there. “There were vacations and layoffs in many facilities during the pandemic and I think that set the pace for what a union could do for us.”

Ms. Smitka said that many of her colleagues were concerned about job security, equal pay and health insurance. Rosemary Taylor, another Guggenheim worker who participated in the union initiative, said “racial equality and diversity” and transparency in decision-making are also important issues.

Taylor, a teaching artist who worked on a Guggenheim program that sends artists to public schools, said many staff wanted to know more about museum officials’ plans and be able to speak up on matters that affect them.

“We want to have a voice,” she says. “We want to do the jobs we love better so that we can keep doing them.”

A wave of organizing that began about two and a half years ago has resulted in workers forming unions in institutions across the country, including the New Museum in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.